What's in a name? Some authors are immediately identifiable by their book titles. Think of Sue Grafton
(Kinsey Milhone) and her alphabet titles. Or, earlier, John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee) and his inclusion of a color in each title.What was the basis of many of the titles of Martha Grimes's detective novels?
Send your answer to email@example.com
(subject line: quiz). A prizewinner (a $25 gift card) will be randomly drawn from correct submissions.
Congratulations to Barbara Morse of Wells, who named Flavia DeLuce as the pint-sized heroine in Alan Bradley's bestselling mystery series (starting with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) who says, "Compared to my life, Cinderella was a spoiled brat." She also pointed out, "Although it is pleasant to think about poison at any season, there is something special about Christmas."
Each month we note birthdays of some of the masters of the mystery genre, with hopes that readers might read (or re-read) one of their gems.
, author of The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868) among others, was born in London on January 8, 1824. He died in 1889, having written some of the earliest "mystery" novels.
Manfred B. Lee, born in Brooklyn on January 11, 1905, was one of the two cousins who were Ellery Queen for 42 years, until Lee's death in 1971. Through their anthologies and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, they were the major influence on mystery short stories in America. Their novels and short stories about Ellery Queen provided reading and viewing pleasure to generations.
The novelist Walter Mosley
born in Los Angeles on January 12, 1952, gained success and fame following the exploits of Easy Rawlins, a hard-nosed African-American PI in LA and World War II veteran, through the changing racial landscape in Los Angeles to the late 60s.
Amanda Cross, a noted
feminist academic (Carolyn Heilbrun), was the queen of American academic mystery writers. Born on January 13, 1926, in East Orange, NJ, she was the first woman to get tenure in the Columbia University English Department. Her mysteries reflect her feminist beliefs and are often extremely critical of universities' treatment of women. She died in 2003.
Edgar Allan Poe
, the father
of detective fiction, was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston. His The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) is recognized as the first detective story. Since 1946 the Edgars, awarded each year by the Mystery Writers of America, honor the best in the genre and his memory. He died in 1849.
Patricia Highsmith, best known for her dark psychological mysteries, was born in Texas on January 19, 1921. The author, who spent most of her life living abroad, was best known for her Strangers on the Train (1950) and later her series featuring Tom Ripley. She died in 1995.
What better way to carry your books (or anything else) and at the same time demonstrate your love of mysteries than with our signature black bag?
Made of durable fabric with reinforced 20-inch handles, the bag sports our recognizable logo. ($7)
Remember, if you've taken your Mainely Murders bag on a trip, let us know. Send your photo (jpg) and details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for supporting
Mainely Murders and other small independent booksellers. At a time when you have other choices, you've shown a commitment to those of us who are part of the local community and who consider customers to be friends and neighbors.
We take great pride in talking with our clientele, whether it's trading viewpoints on favorites or recommending new titles and authors.
Happy New Year,
Another year has come and gone. And, before you ask, yes, they go by faster every year.
Our final few days of the year were spent helping customers stock up for their winter reading. We often think it's a practice unique to those of us in colder climates, but we seem to have sent a lot of books down south, too.
The aftermath of the holidays has left bare spots on our shelves, but there's plenty of time to re-stock, mostly on our return. We can do a bit of charity shop (Oxfam, etc.) exploring in Scotland, but on the Continent even used book prices are pretty steep--and used books are not all that easy to find.
For now, we're closing up home and bookstore--thank heaven for caretakers who make this worry-free, and alarms, lack of much to steal except a few, OK, many, used books, and neighbors who watch out for us.
Now, we're getting ready for winter. We'll soon be taking off. It's this time of the year that we pay particular attention to storms (After all, we do live in northern New England!), airline/airport strikes (Europe, and France in particular, is more given to strikes), or other acts of nature or disgruntled workers that might disrupt travel.
Our itinerary, for those who like to know such things, will begin in Glasgow. Nothing like starting our travels with some bracing Scottish weather and a taste of haggis, the national dish that most foreigners (not Ann!), and many natives, love to hate.
After a few days, we'll hit the road--actually the rails--down to London and on to Paris. (Depending on connections, it's a nice eight-hour trip.)
As always, we'll keep you in our thoughts. And, you'll continue to hear from us throughout the months ahead. Let us hear from you, too, at
Ann and Paula
Partners in Crime
New This Month
On the Big Screen
Our customers and we may disagree about the
best book of any year, but there's no argument about this year's best film: Knives Out
, the modern take on a classic whodunit.
When mystery writer Harlan Thrombey is found dead (murder or suicide?) in his sprawling estate the morning after his 85th-birthday celebration, everyone is a suspect--from each member of his clearly dysfunctional family to the mostly devoted staff.
As is usual in classic British mysteries (though Knives Out is set in the U.S.), the police are aided by a private detective, the inquisitive and debonair detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who must sift through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth.
Everything works in this film. The actors (including Craig, Christopher Plummer, and Jamie Lee Curtis) are wonderful; the web of red herrings brilliant; the dialogue razor sharp. And, did we mention funny?
But the real star of the show is the set, starting with the Ames Mansion (Borderland State Park in Easton, Massachusetts). Inside, it gets even better. Antiques galore. The most unsettling of art pieces, from the weird doll house to the chair made of knives that point directly at the head of anyone who sits in it. The rooms filled with dusty books.
Ah, the books. This is where we mention our own very small role in the film. It's a long story--too detailed for here--of how we were asked to provide a ready-made mystery library for an unknown-to-us crime novelist in an unknown-to-us motion picture. Within days, we had made our selection (1,499 books).
Fast forward to the opening of Knives Out. And, there--known only to us--they were. Small world.
Our Winter Reading
Winter's cold snowy days (and nights) are perfect for curling up with a good book. Judging by the number of customers who visited us during the last month, intent on stockpiling books for the days ahead, some readers will be prepared.
Like many people, our reading hits its peak season now. First, we have time for all those books we missed reading earlier. Like our customers, we have to-be-read (TBR) piles, too. And, after a relatively light end-of-the-year new release schedule, publishing is fast and furious come January.
Just because our winter travels begin soon, our reading doesn't slow down.
This year, because our travels begin in Glasgow, we plan to catch up on some of the lesser-known Scottish writers. Once we leave there, we'll take advantage of our membership in the American Library in Paris for the lion's share of our winter reading.
In the meantime, we'd like to hear what you're eager to read this winter, whether it's a specific title or a new-to-you author. You might take a page out of Ann's book. She does a mix of catching up on new books by favorite authors, trying a few books her favorite authors recommend, and finishing series she's just started.
We've each made a list of books we're looking forward to reading. Perhaps some of ours are similar to yours? Or, we just piqued your interest?
* Fred Vargas, This Poison Will Remain. Published in 2019, the latest in the Commissaire Adamsberg series. I'm a big fan of Vargas and her writing; she's the best of French writers, and clearly underappreciated outside of Europe. (I may go back and re-read the earlier ones.)
* Elly Griffith, Now You See Them. The author's Dr. Ruth Galloway series is my favorite, but she brings the same quality of writing to her Magic Men books set in 1950s Britain. (A new Ruth Galloway title is set for February release; I'll add that to my list, too.)
* Joe Ide, Hi Five. This is the fourth title with Isaiah Quintable (IQ), a young Southern California black man who solves crimes using his intellect and his Sherlock Holmes-like observational skills. IQ has been called "Sherlock in the 'hood." (The first in the series, IQ, was a huge prizewinner, and might be a good place to start.)
* Jean-Luc Bannalec, The Killing Tide. It won't be out until February, but I can't wait for the fifth in the Commissaire Georges Dupin series set in beautiful Brittany, France.
* Georges Simenon (1903-1989). Each winter I binge read one author. Simenon's Jules Maigret is the most famous Parisian detective, but I confess I haven't read every one of his 75 novels (nor his numerous short stories). I'll work on that this winter, although I have no expectation of catching up with customer Kathleen Cavanaugh of South Portland, who's read them all.
* Rennie Airth, The Decent Inn of Death. Somehow for years, I missed Airth's series starring John Madden, which uses crimes to illuminate various periods in 20th-century Britain. Very, very nice.
* Joe Ide, Hi Five, when Paula is finished with it.
* Denzil Meyrick's six books after Whisky From Small Glasses (surely one of the catchier titles around). DCI Daley is sent from Glasgow to a small town on the Argyll coast, where everyone knows everything and shares nothing with him. It's great when you have to play catch-up.
* Sophie Hannah, The Culver Valley series. I haven't read any, and I think it's time--and the American Library probably has several. She's a good writer, and it's OK she isn't Agatha Christie, despite being selected by the Christie estate to carry on the Hercule Poirot stories.
* Helene Tursten, her new Detective Inspector Embla Nystrom series, and also An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good
because a murderous old woman has a certain appeal these days.
What You're Reading This Winter
Jeanette DeBlois of Sanford is always "stockpiling" books for winter reading. But, she's been known to break into her stockpile early.
This year, she's creating several stockpiles for various parts of the winter, including a first-ever vacation to Hawaii.
I don't know how much time I'll have for reading on vacation, but I've already packed away a couple books in my Mainely Murders bag--my next Mary Russell novel by Laurie R. King and the latest Inspector John Madden book by Rennie Airth. I'm one of those people who must read books in chronological order, and these are two of my favorite series--with excellent writing and the ability to keep me thinking all the time.
Before and after my vacation, I've got others on my list. Ann Cleeves, with her Vera and Shetland Island series, keeps me busy. This winter I want to get started on her new Two River series.
There's also the Barbara Cleverly and Camilla Lackberg series. Fortunately, there are authors who write standalones, too. And, I'm always open to suggestions.
Happy winter reading from one reader to others.
Barbara Hambly, Lady of Perdition [January #17]
[Stone Barrington #52]
* Maine-based authors